In November 2017, on the eve of his career's biggest release, Bollywood filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali was in hiding under police protection. His magnum opus Padmaavat, originally scheduled to be released across the world on December 1, was postponed indefinitely. The film's lead actress, Deepika Padukone, had a bounty placed on her head. Posters of the film were already burning across India as the country's censor board dissected the film for inflaming “cultural sensitivities.” The furor centered on Bhansali's portrayal of a mythical fourteenth-century Hindu queen named Padmavati, lionized for burning herself alive in the face of a Muslim invasion. Karni Sena, a right-wing Hindu nationalist group, claimed that the (unseen) film showed their revered queen dancing and romancing the film's Muslim villain. The allegation was enough to spark calls for the film to be banned. Violent protesters, political opportunists, and cable news personalities followed suit. Could the increasingly violent threats from Hindu nationalists succeed in silencing Bhansali's life's work? Qureshi discusses how once the film was released and the Karni Sena withdrew its protests about the film, his own struggles with it began.
The War for Nostalgia: Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmaavat
Bilal Qureshi is a writer and cultural critic exploring the intersection of international politics, identity, and art. From 2008 to 2015, he served as producer, editor, and reporter for NPR's All Things Considered. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, the Washington Post, and NPR's Code Switch. He also produces the FQ podcasts for Film Quarterly.
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Bilal Qureshi; The War for Nostalgia: Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmaavat. Film Quarterly 1 June 2018; 71 (4): 46–51. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2018.71.4.46
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